With links to the Queen, Donald Trump and the Premier League, the Paradise Paper leaks, revealing the secrets of off-shore tax havens shows just how endemic this Global system of secrecy is, a deliberately created system which allows the rich to hide their wealth in complex overseas trusts and tax havens at the expense of the rest of us.
From the Panama Papers to the new Paradise Papers. Enough is enough.
Christian Aid has been actively campaigning for ten years to end the financial secrecy that facilitates tax avoidance, tax evasion and corruption. We have done this because it is poor people, in poor countries that are most vulnerable to the impact of these practices. Developing countries lose many billions of dollars every year in this way, reducing their opportunity to fund their own economic and social development and thus increasing dependency on Aid. New revelations about the activities of the Global giant Glencore in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC demonstrates exactly how the secrecy provided offshore can have a devastating impact in one of the poorest countries in the world, preventing development and consigning a population to a life of poverty. This isn’t academic. Dirty money hurts real lives.
The Paradise Papers latest revelations, coming some eighteen months after the Panama Papers must surely signal the end of financial secrecy. Whether by design, or though leaks, nobody can expect to keep the details of their tax affairs secret – not even the Queen. The UK government has a choice – act and get ahead of the game, or continue to face regular embarrassment as further leaks provide evidence of the consequences of their inaction.
Toby Quantrill, Head of Economic Development at Christian Aid, said: “These revelations are yet further evidence of the extent and nature of the global offshore system. A rotten system that enables a few of the richest amongst us to dodge their financial responsibilities, but is unavailable to the vast majority of us. A corrupt system that has been deliberately created by the most powerful, at the expense of the powerless, from all countries in the world. A system which undermines democracy and markets alike. And which reinforces the cycle of inequality, perpetuating the entrenchment of power at the top.
"This, surely, has to signal the end of financial secrecy. This is not the first leak of this nature and it won’t be the last. It is clear that transparency is now inevitable. Whether by design or by leakage, nobody can expect to keep the details of their tax affairs secret anymore. The message has to be that ‘if you are not comfortable with it being public, then don’t do it".
In the end it is only globally coordinated agreement on appropriate regulation that can create the level playing field that citizens, responsible business and governments all need.
Governments, especially the UK government, have been too slow to act – we saw good words, but insufficient action. Most stark is the failure to tackle the secrecy in our own back yard. Our Overseas Territories lie at the centre of the offshore system. We need to see decisive action on transparency not just more words.
Theresa May as Prime Minister and Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary responsible for the UK's Overseas Territories need to insist on the same levels of transparency in the UK's tax havens as the rest of the UK. And we also need to address the issue of trusts very quickly. Anything less than this will be yet another failure to act decisively on this issue from the government.